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Winter Sports Clinic helps MST survivor heal

Navy Veteran Nikki Wyman skis during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colorado.

By Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System

SNOWMASS, Colo. – Her eighth trip to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in 2023 fell while Nicole “Nikki” Wyman was in a dark place. Her mental health was struggling, and she knew she needed help. She found it with a mental health counselor at the clinic, Susan Walker.

Walker is a psychiatric nurse practitioner with the VA Western Colorado Health Care System in Grand Junction, Colorado who provides mental health care through the medical room at the Winter Sports Clinic each year. She is available 24 hours a day throughout the event to ensure that Veterans who need mental health support can receive it.

“I saw Susan every day, I skipped all my alternate activities last year,” recalled Wyman. “I talked about everything and cried, and she told me that I wasn’t the problem, I was the victim.”

Wyman served in the Navy from 1992-1999 as a Religious Program Specialist. Throughout her career she served at Naval Air Facility Adak in Alaska, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, Mayport Naval Station in Florida and Parris Island Marine Corps Base in South Carolina.

Her counseling with Susan is just one way that the Winter Sports Clinic has helped Wyman heal from two sexual traumas, PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. She has struggled for years with depression, drug use and suicidal thoughts. She also struggled with dangerous behavior because she didn’t want to live.

“I call it second-hand suicide, where you live so recklessly with drugs, alcohol, wishing you’d have an accident,” said Wyman.

Recreation therapy and the connections she forms at events like Winter Sports Clinic have played a key role in Wyman’s ongoing recovery.

“I love getting out and being active. I need that more,” said Wyman. “I haven’t been living. I cry over that because I haven’t been.”

The 2024 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is Wyman’s ninth trip to Snowmass, and she was in a much better place mentally for this trip. She was happy to see Susan again and reconnect with the many friends she has made over the years.

“I’m just very grateful. I’ve seen so many people I know here, and they say I’m looking better, I’m doing better,” said Wyman. “The Winter Sports Clinic saved my life.”

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, there are resources available and people who want to help you. The caring, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are ready to listen and help you make a plan to stay safe. Day or night, you can receive crisis support:

If you are experiencing the effects of MST, VA can offer support to suit your schedule and comfort level. To learn more, visit VA’s MST webpage.

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